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Summary - May 1969

2/5 Cav operated out of LZ Ike interdicting the Mustang Trail, which was a series of small, interconnected trails suitable for bicycle traffic, and intended to supply enemy troops moving towards the Saigon/Bien Hoa/Long Binh area.  (Official battalion documents also refer to it as the Mustang Road.)  It was a typical month in that the company spent fifteen days in the field, followed by five days as "Palace Guard" on the LZ.  Normally, C 2/5 Cav would be "logged"  (resupplied by helicopter) every three days, and would conduct a combat assault every three days.  Towards the middle of the month, Charlie Company saw a lot of action, and we lost three good men.


May 1

Charlie Company combat assaulted into a green LZ.

That night, back at Tay Ninh Base Camp, the 2/5 Cav area was hit by four 122mm rockets, and the entire S4 building was destroyed.   Jerry "Doc" Watson was there, and sent this email:Comanche_1969_Tay_Ninh_Rocket_from_Watson.jpg (32456 bytes)

I was at the 2/5 Cav area when the S-4 Building was destroyed by the 122mm rockets on May 1, 1969. On May 1, 1969, Tall Comanche had just ended our Stand-Down at Tay Ninh Base Camp and was to be lifted back out into the boonies. I stayed behind and reported for a medical appointment that had been arranged for me by our Battalion Surgeon, Capt. A. P. Turel.

After my medical appointment, I spent that night at the HHC Medical Aid Station at the 2/5 compound before I was to be sent back out to Tall Comanche. That evening it was so hot in the bunker that several of the Medics decided to sleep outside on the roof.  I thought that sounded like a good idea.  After all, isnít it safer being in the rear then in the boonies chasing the NVA?   I followed the others out of the Medical Aid Station and climbed up onto the top of the bunker.  There I laid down near the rear edge using a sandbag for a pillow, and fell fast asleep. I couldnít have been asleep long, when suddenly I was awakened by swoosh sounds, bright flashes of light and loud deafening explosions.  I rolled over and peered over the sandbags at the rear edge of the bunker, looking into the compound to see flames lighting up the area and thick black smoke billowing up only about 100 feet away from me.  I didnít know which way to go for cover.  I just quickly laid back down flat and slid back away from the edge of the roof with the others.  I moved just in time because a large steel door from a Conex container that was still in flames, landed right next to me in the exact spot where I had been sleeping.  I then quickly slid off of the bunker and ran back inside to safety,  were I spent the rest of the night, and totally forgot how hot it seemed before.  While inside we could hear the ruckus of those outside trying to determine if anyone was injured or killed.  Normally there were a few that would be sleeping in one of the Conex containers for the evening, but luckily on this evening these troopers choose to play poker in the Commo Bunker.

The explosions were from 122mm NVA Rockets, and had destroyed the 2/5 S-4 Building and several Conex containers.   The next morning I stepped out of the Aid Station and took this photo of the still smoldering wreckage before I walked over to examine the damage. After that night I was glad to get out of there and back with Tall Comanche. 

(Sources:  2/5 Cav S3 Daily Journal dtd 1 May 1969, and personal recollections of Jerry Watson)

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May 6

C Company knew how to pick a good location - this time they found four NVA graves inside the perimeter.  (Source:  2/5 Cav S3 Daily Journal dtd 1 May 1969)

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May 10 through 13

Things got tough for Charlie Company during this period.  It began with a normal combat assault from one jungle location to another at 2 PM on May 10th.   From Jerry "Doc" Watson:

After spending a peaceful night in dense jungle, Tall Comanche was ordered to saddle up and motivate. The company moved out from our NDP in three columns, and pushed through the dense brush until we came come out of the jungle into a large clearing. Here the company secured the clearing as we awaited the arrival of our slicks for a combat assault. The slicks arrived at our PZ and lifted our company in three sorties to our LZ which was another large clearing in another area of the jungle.

 The company regrouped into three columns and moved back into the jungle as we followed parallel and to the right of the Mustang Trail. This part of the jungle took on a very different appearance than most other parts of the jungles that we had been in. The trunks of the trees were very large, tall and void of all branches until they reached high above forming a canopy blocking out the sunlight. It was very dark and humid, and there was very little vegetation on the ground due to the lack of sunlight. As we paralleled the trail, were able to see a great distance ahead as we traveled through the many large trunks, making our travel much safer and faster.

 The day was spent hacking through the jungle, as usual.  After setting up the Night Defensive Position (NDP) straddling a trail (as was the custom), a single NVA soldier rode a bicycle north on the trail, setting off a trip flare.  The company opened up, and the NVA was seen falling off the bicycle, presumed dead.  At the same time, the company took four or five rounds of enemy small arms fire, but no one was hit.  But, the night was not over.  At 4:30 on the morning of the 11th,  three more southbound NVA soldiers on bicycles set off trip flares.  Charlie Company troops in that part of the perimeter opened up, and a few enemy rounds were returned.  Fifteen minutes later, we discovered we had a wounded NVA soldier on our hands.  He was Medevac'd out at first light.  (The jungle was so thick, it required a jungle penetrator to extract him.  Wonder what was going through that NVA soldier's mind as he was lifted up towards the helicopter?)

The day began with a recon of the area.  From the area south of the NDP (the first contact), we found four bicycles, four  B-40 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, three packs of medical supplies, and assorted clothes, fish, and rice.   In the other area north of the NDP, we found two dead NVA, the wounded NVA mentioned above, three AK-47 rifles, one bangalore torpedo (used to blow holes in barbed wire fences), eight B-40 rounds, three Chicom grenades, twelve AK-47 magazines, and assorted personal affects.

Charlie Company then moved north, parallel to the trails.  (We did not walk on the trails.  It was a lot more work to hack through the jungle, but it was also much safer.)  At about 10:45 in the morning, we spotted an NVA solder moving parallel to us.  Though we opened fire, we didn't know if the enemy was hit.  But now we knew the enemy was observing our movement.  This was a spooky feeling, as we no longer had the element of surprise.  Later that afternoon, a Loach helicopter spotted three NVA to our west, but their M-60 malfunctioned.  We went into our NDP (straddling trails, as usual) with the knowledge we were being watched.

Our suspicions were correct.  At 5:25 AM, May 12th, we were hit hard with mortars, B-40s, and small arms.  We called in the Spooky flare ship, Blue Max (Cobra gunships from the 2/20th Artillery), and tube artillery.  At 6 AM, we radioed LZ Ike that we had four wounded, and Medevac was requested.  At 7 AM, the Medevac was completed, but the bird took small arms fire. 

But, not all our people reported as wounded made it.  PFC Richard Flagiello  succumbed to fragment wounds to the head.  He had been with Charlie Company less than a month.  

Of course, we had Loach scout helicopters working for is, and at 10 AM, they found two NVA dead just to our west.  One of the NVA had a mortar round strapped to him.  C Company sent 2nd Platoon to check it out, and they found the two NVA dead, plus ten 82mm mortar rounds, twelve 60mm mortar rounds, four Chicom grenades, and other items.

Again, we settled into our NDP nervously.  As May 12th became May 13th, all hell broke loose at 3:15 AM.  By 3:35, we radioed battalion that we had taken approximately twenty to thirty mortar rounds, plus B-40s and small arms, and one trooper had been wounded.  By 4 AM, we were still taking sporadic mortar and small arms fire, and had both the Spooky gunship and Max supporting us - and we reported more wounded.  Worse, we had an NVA inside the perimeter at 4:30.  By 5 AM, we were still taking Chicom grenades, small arms, and B-40s, and had reported one dead and more wounded. Finally, as dawn broke, the NVA broke contact.  By 6:45, the Medevac of our wounded and dead was complete.  But things were still popping.  We spotted fifteen to twenty NVA moving south on a trail, and the gunships of the 1/9th Cav went looking for them.  At 8:25, the Battalion Commander came in to pick up an NVA POW we'd captured, and a wounded NVA soldier, and his bird was shot at while lifting off.

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We inflicted losses on the enemy too.  We counted eleven NVA KIA, took three POWs (two wounded), and seven rifles, three B-40s, and two RPD machine guns.

Clockwise, beginning upper left corner:
  • Mike Ruhter (KIA July 22, 1969) is sitting to the left of slick. First one in doorway on left is 2nd Platoon Sergeant, next is 1st Platoon Sergeant. Identity of those on the right not known. Note the bicycle.
  • 2nd Platoon Sergeant holding SKS. (It is believed his last name was Berry. If you know his name, please contact the Webmaster.)  On the butt of the SKS is written Sierra in black felt marker. There was a little conflict as to who was to keep the weapon. Berry won out.
  • Jerry "Doc" believes we had already taken out two loads of weapons, and this is what was left for another bird to pick up.
  • This LOH (Light Observation Helicopter, commonly called a Loach) came in after all of the other slicks had come in and left. We were just about to saddle up and move out when this photo was taken.

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Click on Photos to See Larger Version
All Courtesy Jerry "Doc" Watson

But, we'd had enough, and it was our turn to rotate in to LZ Ike, and take over security.  We began moving towards an open field we could use as a pick-up zone (PZ).  Though we ran into another NVA in a spider hole, and dispatched him, we weren't lifted back to LZ Ike until late in the afternoon, with the last bird landing at 5 PM.  That didn't give much time to get settled in, assign positions, and send out listening posts  (LPs).

Killed in the attack were SP4 Salvadore Manino and PFC Scott F. Anderson, both from a gun shot wound to the head.

Over the course of the three days, we took wounded too.  SP4  John Smith was wounded in both hands.  PFC Terry Rose took fragments to the head and skull and was flown to the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh.  SP4 Santalis Santalis went to the 15th Medical Battalion at Phuoc Vinh for fragment wounds to the right leg and right eyebrow.  PFC Robert Davis took some fragments to both buttocks.  PFC Reginald Bradshaw spent some time at the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi.

(Sources:  2/5 Cav S3 Journals for specified dates, C 2/5 Cav Morning Reports for specified dates, and personal recollections of Douglas Young)

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May 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

Being assigned to defense of the LZ was not as "luxurious" as one might think.  It meant pulling details during the day (filling sandbags, setting out concertina wire, burning shit, etc.), then at night, you got to pull guard duty in one of the fighting bunkers - if you were lucky.  You might also be sent outside perimeter as part of a "listening post"  (LP) positioned just inside the wood line about 100 - 150 meters out from the LZ.  This was scary duty.  If you heard something, you were supposed to radio the LZ - then hope your own guys didn't shoot you as you tried to get back inside.  On the night of May 15-16, and again on the night of May 18-19, intelligence indicated there would be an attack on LZ Ike.  One of our day patrols even found a mortar pit about 300 meters from LZ Ike,  and everyone was on 100% alert all night long - but no attack came.  But something was out there as 3/6's LP saw two NVA soldiers moving in their direction during the dark morning night of May 19.  After lobbing a few M-79 grenades in the direction of the NVA, they came back into the LZ.  (Source:  2/5 Cav S3 Journals for specified dates)

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May 19

At 9 AM, we left  LZ Ike and combat assaulted back to "the weeds."  There was a lot of intelligence coming down from both brigade and division that there were large NVA forces in the area, and we were instructed to stay within 30 minutes of our LZ in case we needed to be moved as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF).  At 2 PM, the requirement was cancelled, but we all knew "Charlie" was in the AO.  And we were right - at 4:15 PM, we saw an NVA soldier on a trail about 25 meters in front.  We shot at him, but didn't see him fall.  We did find blood on the ground.  (Source:  2/5 Cav S3 Journal dtd 19 May 1969)

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May 20

At 2:40 PM, we reported a heat casualty.  A log bird was sent to pick up the CO, CPT Young,  who was then evacuated to LZ Ike.  (Webmaster note:  Actually, Young had a relapse of malaria, which he had acquired during his first tour in 1967.  He was kept overnight on LZ Ike, treated with intravenous fluids and morphine, and returned to the field the following day.  During the night, LZ Ike was lightly hit with sniper and mortar fire, and a small sapper attack.  Some NVA were killed in the wire.  Doug remembers finding a Charlie Company NCO on the LZ who had come in for an awards ceremony, and the two of them had a good time running around LZ Ike shooting at the NVA.  Doug also recalls being a little high from the morphine.)  (Source: 2/5 Cav S3 Journal dtd 20 May, and personal recollections of Doug Young.)

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May 24

The day began with 2nd Platoon rejoining the company after spending the night set up about 100 meters away.  At about 10:15 AM, Loach scout helicopters followed an air strike, and found numerous bunkers and tunnels in an area occupied by enemy troops.  Charlie Company was ordered to combat assault into the area.  At about 2 PM, we flew into the new LZ.  The LZ was green, but we had one heat casualty who was evacuated by the Battalion Commander's bird.  (Webmaster note:  We know the individual's initials were JWB - if you know the identity of this person, please contact the Webmaster.)

By 4 PM, we had entered the air strike zone, and found the NVA were probably still in the area.  Just before 5 PM, we received fire from a bunker complex to our front, and on our left flank.   We were hit by a force that had at least one .30 caliber automatic weapon.  Blue Max (the aerial rocket artillery gunships) was called in, and at 6 PM, an air strike was called in.

PFC  Dwight Albert was evacuated to the 45th Surgical Hospital with fragment wounds to the abdomen.   His wounds were so serious we requested the Medevac bird have whole blood and a doctor on board.  As we were not close to an open area large enough to handle a Huey, one of the Apache scout birds picked him up and moved him to a larger LZ, where the Medevac picked him up..  SGT John Dodd was wounded by a bullet in the left leg and also evacuated out to the  45th Surg in Tay Ninh, but was taken out after Albert, flown in on the Battalion Commander's Command & Control bird.  (Sources:  2/5 Cav S3 Daily Journal for 24 May 1969, and DA Form 1 Morning Report for 24 May 1969)

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May - Exact Date Unknown

SSG Harvey Claypool digging in for the night with a D-handle shovel.

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Courtesy Jim "Tree" Machin

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CPT Douglas Young, with artillery forward observer team RTO Ted Dunn trailing behind.  Its not known if this was taken just before or after a combat assault, but it was unusual to be in an open field.  Notice he was carrying a CAR-15 - nothing more than a short M-16 with a metal extended stock.  Also, notice the heavy cloud cover - it was monsoon season.

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Courtesy Doug Hendrixson

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May - Exact Date Unknown

Members of the company headquarters.  These pictures give some idea of the thick jungle the company endured in Tay Ninh Province.

Clockwise from Upper left:  LT Doug "Rambo" Hendrixson, the Forward Observer from A Battery, 1/77th Artillery.  He went by the radio call sign of Birth Control 28.  He liked his CAR-15.

Upper right:  CPT Douglas Young closest to the camera.  Next is RTO SP4 Robert Stanko, and another RTO - it is believed his last name is Tracy.  In the rear is the artillery RTO, PFC Harry Callahan.

Middle right:  1SG William A. "Top" Allen, with CPT Young facing away.  Notice the map in Young's leg pocket.  No - this is not laundry day - we're just drying out shirts that were soaked with sweat.

Lower right:  Another of the RTOs - but we aren't sure of his name.  It is believed to be Curtis Stacey.  Let the webmaster know.

Bottom:  Duc was a Choi Han - a former NVA soldier who had come over to the side of the South Vietnamese government.  The 1st Cav called such people "Kit Carson Scouts", and they traveled with US forces.  Duc was quite good - and he communicated NVA troops were close by yelling "Beaucoup NVA!"  He usually traveled with Top Allen.

Lower left:  Three members of the CP.  The person lower right may be Stacey.  Standing the rear is (we believe) an RTO named Bill.  The person lower left  is unknown.

Middle left::  Closest to the the camera is an RTO known only as "Bill."  The name of the RTO in the rear is unknown, with CPT Young sitting on the ground.  Note the hammock.  As also shown on the August 1969 page, this was the preferred sleeping accommodation.  The poncho over the hammock kept the rain off.

 

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All Courtesy Doug Hendrixson

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May - Exact Date Unknown

Members of 3rd Platoon on LZ Ike:

Left to Right Standing, Mike Hayes, Mike Kader, Bob Couch, Gene Fussey (was killed in action October 6, 1969), Dayton Fitch, Bob Davis

Sitting, Charles Deharty, Chuck Franklin, Dan (Doc) Hooks, Front, "Fast Eddie" Corona.

Comanche_3rd_Platoon_at_Ike_May_1969.jpg (40980 bytes)
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Courtesy Mike Hayes

Members of 3rd Platoon on a log day:  Mike Morningstar, Mike Kader, "?" Sullivan, Bob Couch, Richard Hamilton

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Courtesy Mike Hayes

More members of 3/6 on a log day:  Phil Morris, John Jarmusz, John "Tech" Tedesco, Willie Byrd (3-6 RTO)

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Courtesy Mike Hayes

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May - Exact Date Unknown

Bobby Hrncirik sent this picture of a B-52 strike taken from LZ Ike.  (We usually referred to them by the code name Arc Light.)   The smoke made the strike look close, but the safety area was 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).  Most likely, the smoke seen in the picture was at least 4 miles away.

Comanche_LZ_Ike_B52_Strike_1969_from_Hrncirik.jpg (24418 bytes)
Click on photo to see larger version

Courtesy Bobby Hrncirik


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